NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The 7th Victim by Alan Jacobson

3.0 out of 5 stars Cliche-ridden psycho killer thriller disappoints..., June 30, 2010
By Denise "DC" (Missouri, USA) - See all my reviews

This review is from: The 7th Victim (Hardcover)
As other readers have remarked, this book was full of unbelievable co-incidences, tired plot devices, and tepid characters. Riddled with cliches, the novel is overlong and filled with redundant details and minutiae that most of us who read this genre are quite familiar with.

Karen Vail is the only female FBI profiler in the BAU and is working on a case that has been dubbed "Dead Eyes Killer" by the rest of those on the task force. Working with them, she is faced with trying to figure out why there is an increase in the killer's activities but ends up being implicated in the case. As the killing escalates, the task force is slowly but surely trying to find the killer and prevent further murders. The narrative moves forward slowly with lots of background about the nature and function of profiling as part of the investigatory activity of the FBI when faced with a serial killer.

The revelations during the investigation are peripheral as most of the story centers on all the different facets of Karen's life -- an abusive ex husband, a contentious divorce, a custody battle, a son in the hospital, a mother with Alzheimer's -- well is it any wonder that Karen is distracted?! Oh, and of course there's a romance in the midst of all this horror!

Now -- your guess -- does the killer come after Karen? I was disappointed when, yet again, the killer marked the female agent involved in the case. She is to be victim number seven.

As far as I can tell, if you are a fan of the psycho killer, thriller chiller suspense novel -- you've already basically read this one. Borrow, don't buy.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Third Angel by Alice Hoffman

4/5 stars Haunting and beautiful..., June 27, 2010

This review is from: The Third Angel: A Novel (Paperback)

I've read many of Alice Hoffman's novels and each is a story that lingers long after the last page has been turned and the book closed. This one is particularly haunting and I've found myself doing something I rarely do -- rereading the book from the opening chapter. Skimming to a particular segment and then leafing through pages of one of the parts of this novel. The book is divided into three segments, telling the stories from the viewpoint of three very different women during significant events of their lives. The setting is London, in fact at a hotel called Lion Park -- where people go when they want complete privacy -- and the time periods when these events take place are 1999, 1966, and 1952. The book seems to be in a style such that it can be read forward or backward -- and give the reader a different perspective or reaction to the story because of what the reader discovers when starting "at the beginning" with the oldest character, Lucy Green, first.

The three women at the heart of the story are connected though it's difficult to piece that together during the first read through of this novel. Each experiences something about love that devastates her. Coming to terms with the heartbreak and the loss is the question each seeks to answer: is love simple or is it complicated?

Maddy Heller -- falls in love with the man her sister is to marry.

Frieda Lewis -- falls in love with a heroin-addicted wanna be rock star who is in love with another woman.

Lucy Green -- is unwittingly involved in a love triangle that impairs her ability to believe in anything.

At the heart of these interconnected stories is the concept of The Third Angel. What does this angel represent? Frieda's father, a physician, tells her that there are three angels who ride with him in the back of his car on the way to see patients. The Angel of Life and The Angel of Death are self-explanatory; and then there's the Third Angel that represents humanity, love, suffering, redemption, faith, and hope. It's the angel, in disguise on earth, that helps human beings "embrace the transforming nature of love."

This is not a happy or uplifting book in many ways. It is a little depressing and brought me to tears sometimes while reading. The prose is beautiful and Hoffman can certainly turn a phrase that is, at times, poetic. The book, however, has a lot of depth and the stories that the women tell -- of their encounters with The Third Angel -- will haunt you. I recommend it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Lies We Told by Diane Chamberlain

4.0 out of 5 stars No lie...this is a good read!, June 25, 2010
By Denise "DC" (Missouri, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Lies We Told (Paperback)
Disclaimer: this book would have earned a 5-star rating from me had it not ended the way it did. I won't spoil it for anyone, but I thought that the resolution of the conflict and the way the story wrapped up was just not realistic in light of how I had viewed the characters, their personalities, and their motivations throughout the course of the novel.

Maya and Rebecca -- sisters, friends, doctors -- have a special bond that was created in the aftermath of the murder of their parents when both were teenagers. Wild and free-spirited older sister Rebecca takes on the burden of caring for and raising 14-year-old Maya when she is barely 18. Both go on to medical school and have very different lives as adult women. Maya is the quiet one; she's married to a fellow doctor named Adam, and they long for children. After suffering through a series of miscarriages, their marriage is faltering. Rebecca is deeply involved with a relief organization known as DIDA (Doctors International Disaster Aid) and lives her days ricocheting from tragedy to disaster all over the world. The sisters are very close and supportive of each other, all the while continuing to live in ways that support their self-created myth that Maya is the weak one and Rebecca is the strong one. The lies they tell each other, and the ones they hold in their hearts, are roiling beneath the surface calm of their lives.

After a third miscarriage, Maya is disconsolate. Adam is distant and shattered by a revelation that Maya makes in the doctor's office. When a hurricane hits the North Carolina coast, he signs on immediately and joins Rebecca at a makeshift airport infirmary where they are inundated with more sick and injured than they can handle. Both urge Maya to come help in the relief efforts, and against all odds, she shows up! Unfortunately, while on a transport mission, the helicopter that she is riding in crashes into a flood zone and there is no sign of her at the site.

Believing Maya dead, Rebecca and Adam become closer than ever in their shared grief. But something changes between them. Meanwhile, the injured Maya is held on a piece of land that is surrounded by water, with no way off the island, and a fear that her rescuers might not have her best intentions at heart.

The sisters learn more about themselves and then the pieces of their shared history begin to unravel as each starts a journey of self discovery. Rebecca and Maya will never be the same.

I thought the book was great until the last couple of chapters. I liked the character of Maya much more so than the persona of Rebecca -- for various reasons. I don't feel that the pat ending that the author wrote (and by the way she is one of my favorite authors) rang true and it really irritated me. I'd be interested to hear if other readers felt it was too contrived and unbelievable to them as well.

In any event, if you can get past the ending, you'll enjoy the book. I'd still recommend it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Last Surgeon by Michael Palmer

3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing novel for a medical thriller fan..., June 23, 2010
By Denise "DC" (Missouri, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Last Surgeon (Hardcover)
There was not much "medical" in this purported medical thriller novel by Michael Palmer. I've read his entire backlist, and indeed some of his novels are better than others, but this one was very much not one of his better ones. This book was about conspiracy and secret operations and veterans and only marginally even about PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). The characters in the book seemed flat and stereotypical -- the vet, a doctor, had a fiance who was brutally murdered by a terrorist and thus he suffers the survivor guilt and also the PTSD from the event. The typical beautiful psychiatric nurse, Jillian, who falls for him was such a cliche (far too perfect and the romance was so contrived as to be nauseating). Both of them mostly just annoyed me. I didn't need so much focus on the romance in this book and was looking for far more medicine and a lot more thriller. It just falls short in every respect.

The ex trauma surgeon, Dr. Nick Garrity, actually only works for one or maybe two nights during the whole of the novel in an RV that he and a nurse have developed into a charitable business delivering care to the poor of Baltimore and DC, and to veterans in particular -- Helping Hands Mobile Medical Unit. That is the sum total of the "medical" part in this book. After the second chapter, the story line focuses on his search for his Marine buddy, the guy who saved him from the terrorist, Umberto Vasquez. Apparently the staff sergeant disappeared about 4 years previously, supposedly called back to some secret special operation and has not been heard from since.

The nurse, Jillian Coates, works on the psychiatric unit in a hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina (I think she works maybe twice during the whole book too), when her sister is murdered in what appears to be a staged suicide. Of course she's suspicious. Starts her own investigation. Hooks up with Dr. Nick and then they both start investigating and of course the two events are connected in a vast conspiracy that ends up being pretty much exactly what the reader expects -- and basically sort of boring.

In short, this is one of Palmer's books that you can safely skip if you're looking for a medical thriller with lots of clinical details. It's basically not that at all -- more of a mystery that happens to involve a doctor and a nurse and an unscrupulous plastic surgery clinic and the CIA and well, you get the picture.

Readers -- tell me -- are there ANY good medical thrillers being written any more? If you find one, please let me know!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Deeper Than the Dead by Tami Hoag

3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 stars for this uneven thriller..., June 21, 2010
By Denise "DC" (Missouri, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Deeper Than the Dead (Hardcover)
I don't expect to read about 1980s police procedures when buying a new book so the fact that Deeper Than the Dead was set in this time frame was a bit disconcerting. In the end, however, the time setting didn't make that much difference in my overall impression of the book.

The story moves at a fairly fast pace and the red herrings thrown out to make the reader think that first one, and then another man is the murderer are planted fairly well and kept me wondering throughout the novel. The story involves 3 major families (one reviewer says 4 but the Cody Roache family isn't really a contender)whose patriarch might possibly be the heinous killer. In addition, the narrative introduces us to an embattled FBI agent working off the clock, Vince Leone, who was shot in the head with a 22-caliber pistol and survived as the male romantic interest, and the teacher of the fifth grade students who are at the center of the drama, Anne Navarre. I found this 28-year-old teacher to be somewhat annoying and a little too perfect and interfering in the investigation. The romance that evolves is entirely predictable and again, irritating but I understand that the author is writing romantic suspense so had to deal with this aspect to please fans of that genre.

Things that annoyed me: many loose ends in the story. There are several pieces that aren't explained and are just dangling. We don't find out the outcome or identify of one major dead person and I don't like it when authors don't provide details for certain threads. We have no idea of why the killer became the way he did or why he selected the victims he chose. I like a lot more psychological probing than Tami Hoag did with this novel. I have read all her other books, some are better than others, but this one was a bit on the lite side in terms of delving into the mind of a serial killer. If the main character was supposed to be an FBI profiler, I expected more detail about background and motive.

Things I liked: fast, interesting and definitely a new twist with part of the focus being on how bad parents affect children! They are definitely able to see and hear what goes on in their homes and often are much wiser about the way things stand than parents ever suspect.

Recommend if you're looking for a quick read and don't expect too much science or pathology-psychology!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Not My Daughter by Barbara Delinsky

3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, June 11, 2010

This review is from: Not My Daughter (Hardcover)
I had high hopes when starting this book. The topic was timely, right out of the headlines -- the plot mimicking the Gloucester, MA pregnancy pact. Four high school girls decide that they are going to get pregnant together and thus support each other through the ordeal. The girls are but 17, high school seniors, and all seemed extremely immature despite the author telling us constantly that these were honor students and exemplar leaders of their class.

I was disappointed in this novel because of the ultimately rosy picture painted of this whole pregnancy situation. Despite the fact that the parents suffer because of the girls' decisions, the result is that the girls end up having it quite nice at the end -- just the way they planned. The parents capitulate and support them financially and physically. There really seems to be no bad repercussions to their stupid decision to get pregnant, and the "happy happy" ending really irritated me. it all just tied up nicely -- nobody lost their jobs or their reputation or anything substantial despite all that happened. I thought the parents of the pregnant teens were rather "too supportive and helpful" and that the girls were never made to accept total responsibility for their poor decision. Deciding to get pregnant, and not involving the father, is selfish and very immature. This was not really emphasized.

That said, the novel purports to examine what it means to be a "good mother" or good parent. I think this was the only redeeming concept -- however, most of us who are parents realize that we can't control what our children end up doing and the decisions they make regardless of how vigilant or how strict we are. All we can hope is that our kids don't make decisions that are unfix-able should they be the wrong choices!

All in all, I won't be recommending this book. Skip it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Passage by Justin Cronin

4.0 out of 5 stars Intense post apocalyptic drama..., June 7, 2010

This review is from: The Passage (Hardcover)
Although I don't typically read books that feature paranormal creatures, this particular novel grabbed me immediately and kept me interested and entertained throughout the very lengthy volume (my paperback ARC had 766 pages). The first novel in a planned trilogy, The Passage was fast paced and chilling. Although the ending is somewhat of a cliffhanger, the rest of the book was good enough to keep me glued to the pages and racing to the final chapters. I think I speak for most everyone who has read this book when I say that I can't wait for the next in the series! Many reviewers have remarked upon some similarities to other works -- most notably Stephen King's The Stand, but I feel that this book was not so much about the battle between good and evil as it was about the nature and expansiveness of the human spirit and its will to survive.

Without rehashing plot or detailing what happens in the book, let me just say this: I really liked the characters and the shifting point of view as well as the storyline! Rarely does a novel come along that brings out so many different moral issues that can be discussed long after the final page is turned. What makes a person human? How does the loss of hope affect the way that people live their lives? Does a vision of a medical advance that can transform the nature of humanity ultimately mean the destruction of the species? And what of using convicted killers as human subjects in a testing program? How far can/should humans go to protect each other and save mankind from predators and threats? All questions that arise during the course of the novel.

Bottom line: order it today! You won't be disappointed though you should definitely set aside a hefty chunk of time so that you can devour it quickly.